In my last post, I provided a selection, from an esteemed Dutch Reformed theologian, that I believe lies at the root of why the doctrine of the Trinity took so long to develop (and in a very real sense is still developing)—once again (this time from a more recent translation):
In all of these elements of revelation, of course, Scripture has not yet provided us with a fully developed trinitarian dogma. (Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 2, trans. John Vriend, p. 279.)
He then continues:
…Scripture contains all the data from which theology has constructed the dogma of the Trinity. Philosophy did not need to add anything essential to that dogma: even the Logos doctrine is part of the New Testament. It all only had to wait for a time when the power of Christian reason would be sufficiently developed to enter into the holy mystery that presents itself here. (Ibid., pp. 279, 280.)
I know that our Reformed brothers will disagree with me, but Bavinck is describing what I would term a “material sufficiency” of the Scriptures, at the very least, when it comes to the doctrine of the Trinity; in other words, the dogma is not explicit, but rather, implicit.
Bavinck’s reflections provide one of the important reasons why I believe that one must accept the notion of doctrinal development. It also speaks to the historical fact that we find many doctrinal trajectories emanating from one, common, ‘material’ source. An important question that one should then ask is: which trajectory is the correct one? And immediately following that question: if the common material is only implicit, by what means does the doctrine become explicit? (I would add, explicit to the point one must say that it is a necessary and irreformable dogma of the Christian Church.)
Grace and peace,